US job openings equal unemployed for first time in two decades

Irving Hamilton
May 9, 2018

US job openings surged to a record high in March, suggesting that a recent slowdown in hiring was probably the result of employers having difficulties finding qualified workers.

Companies say they have jobs to fill.

Job openings increased in a number of industries, with the largest increases in professional and business services (+112,000), construction (+68,000), and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+37,000).

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In a possible positive signal on the health of the USA jobs market, the number of job openings shot higher again in March. Typically, there are far more unemployed people than advertised job openings - often twice as many. With that ratio now at essentially 1 to 1, the job market appears to be tilting in favor of workers and job-seekers rather than employers. The job opening rate, or the number of open jobs as a share of employment, rose to 4.2% from 3.9% a month earlier-also a record.

Some data suggests workers are earning more: One measure of wages and salaries rose in the first three months of the year by the most in 11 years. "The majority of workers who voluntarily change jobs receive a pay bump, generating stronger wage growth for job switchers". The unemployment rate fell to a near 17-1/2-year low of 3.9 percent in April.

That should force employers to push up pay, and many economists expect wage gains will accelerate in the coming months. As a result, the quits rate, which policymakers and economists view as a measure of job market confidence, rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 2.3 percent. Typically, employers should post fewer jobs as the unemployment rate falls. Workers typically quit when they have other jobs lined up, or are confident they can find one. That's left more jobs unfilled. Over time, such a trend would likely increase average wages.

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